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Consumer Expectations and Decreasing Tasting Room Traffic Call for Innovative DTC Marketing Strategies


By Elizabeth Hans McCrone

“We’ve all become Amazoned.”

That’s how Laura Larson, the Founder of Virtual Vines DTC Consulting Services and a professional sales and marketing executive who spent more than two decades in the Fortune 500 sector, describes what is happening with a majority of wine consumers when it comes to expectations and DTC sales.

Expand Your DTC Journey: From Tasting Room Visitor to Digital Consumer

“We want it all,” Larson explains. “We want to know everything about it, we want it now – and we want it shipped for free.”

Larson is referring to what today’s consumers are becoming accustomed to in terms of product distribution and service, especially within digital formats.

Laura Larson
Laura Larson

She uses the Amazon example for discussion purposes as it provides a successful model for what people are experiencing when they click onto their favorite store.

“When they logon, do they see ‘Hey Laura, welcome back,’” Larson asks rhetorically. “’We’ve got more of that 2012 vintage Merlot that you like.’ Wineries need to start thinking like that, because we, as consumers, are really getting used to that kind of treatment.”

Larson and Virtual Vines DTC Consulting Services use what has been described as ‘relationship-based sales and marketing methodologies’ to help wine industry clients recognize consumer trends and incorporate commercial best practices into their company cultures.

For Larson, it comes back to understanding who the customer is, what they want and building a relationship around that in order to maximize sales.

“When people come into your tasting room, it’s likely they’re going to visit you that one time, or at best once a year,” Larson points out. “This is a warm or hot lead – it’s an opportunity to bond. Do you know who they are, if they have spouses, when their anniversary is, do they have kids? There needs to be a concerted effort to invest in these customers.”

Jim Agger is the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for WineDirect, a company with clients throughout the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, that provides a comprehensive suite of software tools to support effective, direct to consumer sales.

Agger says WineDirect’s 1800 plus customer base has given him a pretty accurate picture about what is happening in the world of DTC sales – and how it’s changing.

Jim Agger
Jim Agger

“We see and hear what is on the top of people’s minds for wineries,” Agger confirms. “We can see aggregate shipping fees, how clubs are trending, what people are doing in the tasting room and how it translates into sales.

“Our job is to report those trends to our customers in order to provide tools and services specific to the wine industry, as well as to adopt best practices outside the industry that we can apply to our own.”

Agger says what he and his company are observing and sharing with their clients in terms of DTC sales comes down to a couple of very important trends.

“Number one, we believe that rising consumer expectations are presenting major challenges to wineries and DTC sales right now,” Agger notes. “Consumers expect to receive emails that understand their purchase history, and when they show up at a winery they’ve been to before, they think the staff should know where they’re from and what they like to drink.”

Agger agrees with Larson that it’s critical for wineries to have a solid grasp of their customer base and recognize each individual with “personalization, not just as a name on a list.

“There are actionable things that you can do in your business to help you deliver a more personable service that’s in line with consumer expectation,” Agger believes.

The second concerning trend Agger reports is that winery visitation is down in Napa and Sonoma counties, while paradoxically, hotel visits are up.

“Consumers are definitely going to fewer wineries per day,” Agger verifies. “Now it’s two to three a day, rather than trying to pack in six. When (visitors) see fewer wineries, it makes it even more challenging to find ways to attract new prospects.”

Agger feels strongly that wineries need to focus on developing regional partnerships and appropriate online data management to compete for what could be turning into a dwindling customer base.

“What kind of resources are you putting into getting on that list so that you are one of the Six Best Wineries for Pinot Noir in your region?” Agger demands. “It’s like you’re in a baseball game. You used to get three chances to hit that ball. Now you only get one.”

Both Larson and Agger will be sharing their expertise on DTC sales techniques and industry best practices during a conference session at the upcoming 7th Annual North Coast Wine Industry Conference and Trade Show scheduled for Thursday, December 6 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, CA.

Their session is called Expand Your DTC Journey: From Tasting Room to Digital Consumer, and is part of the WIN Expo Sales & Marketing Track Presented by Emetry. Elizabeth “E” Slater, Founder of In Direct Short Marketing, will moderate the workshop.

For more information about the trade show, conference, speakers and WIN Expo registration, go to http://wineindustryexpo.com.



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